The Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has directed his staff to abandon a project to build a temporary replacement of the Advance Mills bridge on Route 743 in Northern Albemarle County. In a statement, David S. Ekern said his agency will speed up the process of installing a permanent bridge, something he said could be accomplished “no later than spring 2010.”
VDOT closed the bridge in April of last year due to safety concerns, and officials initially planned both a temporary replacement as well as a permanent one. Currently, residents of that section of the County have to take a long detour if they want to travel south. The temporary bridge was to have been built at the site of the existing bridge, and the new permanent bridge was to be relocated up river.
However, VDOT has now essentially combined the two projects into one, according to VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter. Because the permanent bridge will be built on the site of the existing bridge, the agency no longer has to plan for an entirely new roadway and bridge, resulting in a savings of $2 million.
The permanent replacement is now expected to be in place by early 2010 with a preliminary cost estimate of $3 million. The new bridge will also be a prefabricated steel truss bridge, and will be built on the current right-of-way.
VDOT says it will resemble the existing bridge in order to maintain “the characteristics of the historic Advance Mills area.” The bridge will now also be two-lane, as opposed to one, which will require the approaches on either side to be widened.
In a letter to Board Chairman Ken Boyd (Rivanna), VDOT Commissioner David Ekern said funding for this solution is secured.
“VDOT is committing to an aggressive design and construction schedule to restore full access for motorists as quickly as possible,” Ekern said. Until then, VDOT will make repair the main detour, Durrett Ridge Road, within 60 days.
According to the project schedule on VDOT’s Advance Mills website , the timeline is to complete the federally required environmental assessment process by June 2008, and to advertise for construction bids in January 2009. The estimated window for project completion is late fall 2009 to spring 2010. A design public hearing will be held this summer.
When complete, the bridge is expected to have the capacity to carry public safety vehicles and school buses, something that VDOT said has not been allowed since the early 1970’s when the bridge weight limit was reduced to 8 tons.Sean Tubbs